Category Archives: Computing

PC Meeting

This meeting report comes from sometime in the 1990s

PC Meeting

The last PC Users meeting was held at Robbie’s Lancaster, near Jade Stadium. It’s a comfy venue and I got a nice meal for under $10.00.

Robert Edgeler from Big Byte spent time before the meeting playing with his flight simulator, spending all of the time in ChCh airport.

He spent the first ten minutes of his talk explaining that while he was from Big Byte and wearing a company jersey, he was there to give advice. However he managed to imply that we should all show our appreciation by buying lots of stuff from his workplace.

He covered lots of things for a new purchaser to look out for.
Most time was spent on how to avoid getting nuisance attacks, spam
and rubbish from the internet. He named the “Windows Media Player”
as the worst offender, it collects PC information on browsing
habits and sends the data to advertisers. Apparently there is an option
that is on by default, but can easily be turned off.

He claimed that “Registry First Aid” was the best program to remove
unwanted entries from the registry.

He also mentioned some system performance measures to speed things up. But I’m not going to pass these on the people who have PCs 4x faster than mine, you will just have to PUT UP with your 1,000MHz+ PCs !

Interesting site mentioned:
www.oldfriends.co.nz
Here you can find people you went to school with. I haven’t visited, but
you may be interested.

Try not to overclock your brains during the weekend.
See Ya Monday.

Syberia 2

 

Syberia II is a 2004 adventure game conceived by Benoît Sokal and developed by MC2-Microïds, and a continuation to Syberia. It is a third-person puzzle-solving game. Stylistically identical to the first Syberia, Syberia II improves upon the first game by introducing more realistic character animation.

Syberia follows the guidelines first introduced by LucasArts: it is impossible to die or to get stuck at any moment in the game, which allows the user to become fully immersed in Syberia’s universe without the fear of making a mistake or the constant need to save the game.


Adventure Gamers Review


First, this is a better game than the first. Mainly due to the better puzzle design. There is more variety and are more logical. Large portions of the game I could complete without resorting to help.

It also brings the story to a conclusion and shows creatures hinted at in the  first game. For this game I used the UHS (Universal Hints System) instead of a walk-through, which probably forced me to spend more time on the puzzles. Also, talking to people helped a lot with solving problems and showing the way forward, something the first game didn’t do as well. 

The graphics are similar the first game, however the sound was more low key and atmospheric. Symphonic music was mainly used during the cut-scenes.

Problems:

The were less  phone calls, however the tedious and ultimately pointless private eye cut scenes came to nothing. All you see is silhouettes and it adds nothing to the plot.

There is a girl with a balloon at the start who becomes a problem as getting her to react is dependent on a specific character interaction.

Overall (taking the two games together) an enjoyable game.

(11 Hours to complete)


On 26 November 2012, Microïds revealed on their Facebook page that Benoît Sokal had officially signed a contract with Anuman to write the story of Syberia III and that official development had started. The game is scheduled for release on 1 Dec 2016. Additionally the project is to be overseen by Elliot Grassiano, the original founder of Microïds. Sokal left Microïds shortly after the release of Syberia II and founded his own company White Birds Productions to release Paradise, a game that uses a similar style of gameplay as Syberia but is not directly related.

Atari Manual

Here is a list of 7 things to do with your Atari ST Owners Manual.

  1. If you have a Mega ST it can be used to prop the keyboard up
    to the correct angle.
  2.  The back can be used for the shopping list. If you use water
    based felt tip pens you can wipe the writing off and use it
    again.
  3. The manual is thin enough to be used as a bookmark for the
    “Listener”.
  4.  Cover with acrylic paint. When dry it can be used as a mouse
    mat.
  5. Use to swat flies or moths.
  6. Use it to hold open the pages of some of the more verbose
    games manuals. (like Falcon & Balance of Power).
  7. As a final option you could always read it.

Syberia 1

 


Syberia is a 2002 computer adventure game designed by Benoît Sokal, developed by Microïds, and published through The Adventure Company. It follows Kate Walker, the protagonist, as she attempts to wrap up a sale on behalf of her law firm and travels across Europe and Russia. In addition to the main plot, the game contains a subplot conducted via calls received on Kate’s cell phone. It involves Kate’s deteriorating relationship with her fiancé.

Syberia was acclaimed by critics for its graphic design and intelligent script. The game contains elements of art nouveau and steampunk fiction. Most devices and tools within the game’s world (including a train) are powered by springs and wind-up gears.

The success of Syberia prompted a sequel, Syberia II. It was released in 2004 and continues the story from where the first game ends. As of 2014, Syberia III is in development. The game will be published by Anuman Interactive, and Benoît Sokal will write the script. The release date is set for 2016. Gameplay for Syberia 3 was shown at E3, the game is presented in full 3D graphics for greater immersion.

It’s a game notable for its graphic art and moody soundscapes. As for the story, it’s interesting but not extraordinary. There is much hinted at in the details that doesn’t show itself. This is probably in the sequel.

I had a few problems things with the game.

First the deteriorating relationship with her never seen boyfriend. This is just annoying and could have been removed without altering the story. There is no reason the Kate needs a love interest, it just gets in the way.

Then there is the frequent   phone calls from her mother, employer and friends. There is only one puzzle that needs her mother. Otherwise they are not needed.

Most of the puzzles are object based and logical. However many appear arbitrary and without the walk-through I would have been lost with nothing to do. There is little help from other characters. One of the puzzles required four cogs you get at the start of the game. Unfortunately I picked up two, not realizing there were another two needed. There is a lot of pixel hunting to ensure you don’t miss anything.

Overall, a good game (with help from a walk-through)

 

 

 

Starcraft Ends

Finally, after almost 20 years I have finished the main story arc of this popular strategy game.

The original game was released in 1998 and I probably started playing it soon after.  Starcraft 2 came out on July 27 2010 and I played it about a year later. Then came ‘Heart of the Swarm’ , released March 12 2013. The final part of the trilogy was ‘Legacy of the Void released November 10, 2015.

Now it’s all over (almost), there   is Nova Covert Ops a nine game mission pack. But with parts 2 and 3 coming out in Dec 2016, I can wait for everything to be released first.

In addition to the games, I have also read the following books:

Golden, Christie – StarCraft – Dark Templar #1 – Firstborn
Golden, Christie – StarCraft – Dark Templar #2 – Shadow Hunters
Golden, Christie – StarCraft – Dark Templar #3 – Twilight
Grubb, Jeff Star – Craft 1 Liberty’s Crusade
Mesta, Gabriel –  StarCraft 2 Shadow of the Xel’Naga
Hickman, Tracy – StarCraft 3 Speed of Darkness
Neilson, Micky – StarCraft 4 Uprising
Rosenberg, Aaron – StarCraft 5 Queen of Blades
DeCandido, Keith RA – StarCraft 6 Ghost – Nova
McNeill, Graham – StarCraft 7 I Mengsk
Dietz, William C – Starcraft II 1 Heaven’s Devils
Golden, Christie – Starcraft II 2 Devils’ Due
Golden, Christie – Starcraft II 3 Flashpoint

So until Nova, it’s goodbye the Jim Raynor, Artanis and the Queen Bitch of the Universe, Sarah Kerrigan.

Kerrigan

 

 

 

 

 

PC Crisis

Crisis, What Crisis ?
(or “Why staying cool is important”)

Saturday 14 Jan 2006
While playing a demo of Warcraft 3 the monitor went blank.
Then it came on again, went off, flickered and looked like
an electronic device near its deathbed. I turned everything
off, went and did other things for a while then came back.
Now it worked, but not for long. Five minutes later it went
blank. By pushing the contrast and brightnesss to max I could
just see the image, enough to do a proper shutdown.

It seemed obvious, the monitor was kaput, deceased and gone to
silicon hell. So I got in the car and went to Dragon PCs in Archon
Drive. They had a Viewsonic VA702S, a LCD 17 inch monitor for
$427. I was tempted to get the 19 inch for an extra $100, but
knowing the image would be a bit larger than existing monitor, went
for the 17 inch.

I put the old, damaged monitor in the corner (next to the trash)
and installed the new monitor. It went perfectly – for about 10
minutes. Then the same problem occurred. Bugger, the only explanation could be that the PC was faulty, probably the video card.
Could it be a loose connection ?
I removed the cover and blew the dust from 17 months of use
away. Gently pressing on the cards, there didn’t appear to
be any obvious problems.

Sunday 15 January
With my digital buddy resting there wasn’t much to do.
I watched Red Dwarf series 7 then looked at the old PC in the
corner. I had been intending to reformat the disks and get
red of it. An old version of Partition Magic came out and I managed
to stuff up the partitions on both disks and get DOS installed
on the C: drive (that was the idea).

Monday 16 January
At 8:30 the PC arrived at Vintron with a worried owner.
The cover was opened and the innards examined. Graham found the
problem immediately. The videocard fan was so stuffed with dust
it had stopped operating. It was left to be fixed.
Later that day he phoned to say it was fixed and I could pick it up.

Tuesday 17 January
After work the PC came home to a desk with two monitors ready.
I would get an adapter cable and run two 17 inch monitors side
by side. Everything worked OK, I could get me email and stay
up to date with Trademe (current addiction). Then I noticed
strange red patterns on web pages. I was wrong, it wasn’t just
the web pages, it was everywhere. Next, windows failed to close,
icons went blank and everything overlapped everything else, bugger.
I unhooked the old monitor and tried the new LCD monitor. At first
it was OK, then the same thing happened again. I checked the video
settings, everything appeared to be installed correctly. I turned
everything off and tried again. After 5-10 minutes the same thing
happened. It took about the same time for everything to go wrong
as before, on saturday. Conclusion: maybe the fan isn’t working
on this videocard either. This PC is going back.
The keyboard went on the old PC and I got to know DOS EDIT.COM
again. I amused myself by getting old DOS games working, including
Discworld 2, a game that wouldn’t work on anything but DOS.

Wednesday 18 January
Phoned Vintron and arranged to bring the PC to their workshop.
At Vintron, Graham didn’t bother to verify my problem, he just took
the old Videocard out and put another one in. We hooked the PC up
to his monitor and waited for something to go wrong. After 10 minutes nothing did, so we concluded the problem was fixed. In total it cost $3, and that was for the cheap speakers I got to put on my old PC. It was still working after about five hours of operation at home, so it looks like that problem has been fixed.

Friday 20 January
Finally got the adapter for the second monitor and had both running.
With a bit of fiddling, changed resolutions and settings so they
worked together. New problem, the new LCD is brighter and better than the old CRT monitor. Maybe I should get a new LCD monitor so they match. Anyone want to buy an old 17 inch monitor ?

2016 Update
I an still using the same set of monitors.

 

Personal Digital Assistant

PDAs of the Future

Silly ? I love my PDA !
It’s lost a screw, got a crack down one side and still works !
Actually, the virtual keyboard is not advanced enough.
What I need is ….

1. A PDA with the storage and processing power of a 2005 PC.
This should be able to connect the the new G3 network or via
the frequency of your chordless phone to the internet or a base station.
(not yet available)

2. A special attachment to spectacles that projects an image straight to the retina of the eye.  Probably one eye, that way, by opening one eye you get a ‘virtual world’ overlay on the real world and if you close the other eye, all you see is the virtual world. Connect this to the PDA. (this is currently available but still in development – not _exactly_ sure what you see)

3.  A virtual keyboard. But not one that that projects onto a flat surface, it appears in your vision and sensors in the glasses detect gestures, interprets them and allows you to interact with the software. (these are available, but I think they require a glove)

4, A small microphone in the glasses near the nose that can hear what you say and operate the PDA where the use of the virtual keyboard is not appropriate. (shouldn’t be difficult, just Dragon voice recognition)

5. And an earpiece for one (or both) ears.

I can imagine that such an early system would be cumbersome, making you look like Jean Luc Picard when he (temporarily) became a Borg.

After a few years (decade from now ?) the whole thing (including PC)  would look like a pair of thick rimmed spectacles. Then we would all be sitting and standing around, browsing the internet, talking to ourselves, doing our work and looking like Zombies.

Never mind traffic problems with cell-phones. Imagine the crashes caused by trying to drive and looking at porn at the same time 🙂

Of course by then you two will be cycling to work – you couldn’t afford the petrol.

Written 18/5/2006 (exactly 10 years ago)
Nigel Baker
bakern@inet.net.nz
http://nigelbaker.net

 

Datafile 2007

Contribution to June 2007 Datafile

FastStone Image Viewer‘ is my favorite image browser and converter. Its best features are the easy methods of cropping and resizing. It will do the basic jobs of image colour adjustment, but I usually use Photoshop for that. The features I use most are the batch file renaming and resizing. Best of all, it’s free.

http://www.faststone.org/FSViewerDetail.htm

2016 update – the program will now adjust colour levels on an image.

 

ThumbsPlus is the best solution I have found for indexing images.
You can scan directories and CDs and it will create a database of thumbnails that can be searched. Powerful searches can be built, especially if you add keywords and user fields to the images as you add them. There are a lot of image manipulation features that are probably unnecessary. For just the indexing, I think it’s worth $49.95US.

http://www.cerious.com/thumbnails.shtml

2016 Update
I now use abeMeda for cataloging not just photos, but anything on CDs and portable hard drives.

 

Looking for old movies, audio, software and lots of stuff from a bygone era, check out the ‘Internet Archive’.
This link takes you to ‘Computer Chronicles’

http://www.archive.org/details/computersandtechvideos
Hosted by Stewart Cheifet, Computer Chronicles was the world’s most popular television program on personal technology during the height of the personal computer revolution. It was broadcast for twenty years from 1983 – 2002. The program was seen on more than 300 television stations in the United States and in over 100 countries worldwide, with translations into French, Spanish, Chinese, and Arabic. The series had a weekly television broadcast audience of over two million viewers.

The series has been recognized for its journalistic excellence, winning a variety of journalistic awards including more than a dozen from the prestigious Computer Press Association. The series covered high-tech subjects around the world, having shot programs in such various locations as Czech Republic, France, Germany, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Scotland, Spain, and Taiwan. Computer Chronicles was based in the Silicon Valley area of California.

Many of the series programs are distributed on video to corporations and educational institutions for use in computer training. Computer Chronicles program segments have also been bundled with various computer text books by major publishers.

 

Broken Sword 3

Broken Sword: The Sleeping Dragon

BS3

 

George Stobbart and Nico Collard are drawn into a terrifying conspiracy to harness and ancient power. Brought together by fate, coincidence and the intriguing mystery, they will fight sinister forces, uncover an ancient conspiracy, and discover a fiendish source of pure evil… Lured into the steamy jungles of the Congo, eerie castles in Prague, the chic backstreets of Paris and the historic English village of Glastonbury, the duo must unravel the mystery involving the ‘Voynich Manuscript’ which holds the secrets of the ultimate evil power, The Sleeping Dragon, and save mankind.

 

Crates, Crates and more crates.
This is the main puzzle theme – moving crates around. You can’t stack them, just push and pull. This is repeated about 658 times in the game.

This third outing for Nico and George has little to do with the Knights Templar. It has something to do with energy and leylines around the earth. It doesn’t make much sense.

Where the first two games were compelling and interesting, in this game you are lead by the linear plot from place to place. The ‘puzzles’ are often not very intuitive, so without a walk-through I would have been lost.

The traditional inventory-based puzzles that the first two Broken Sword games elevated to an art-form have almost completely been eschewed in favor of more “puzzly” puzzles. There’s one that takes a good half-hour that involves you as George slowly crossing an eternal sequence of tiles, occasionally ordering Nico to move in order to make different tiles “safe.” Your reward for getting through this torture chamber, likely forgetting why you’re even here in the process? A crate puzzle.

Thankfully, though, you can always count on the next cut-scene and plot development to wipe your mind clean of the turmoil you’ve just endured.

The game is in 3D, having abandoned the traditional cell animation style of the first two games. While it generally works, there can be problems with quick disorientating camera moves and being in just the right position to take objects.

The worst aspect are the timed puzzles, I did finish the game, but it took numerous attempts at getting these done.

Despite being 10 years old the graphic quality is fine. The rendering of people and faces is not what would be expected in a modern game, but it was sufficient to convey the necessary emotions of the characters.

In the end.. just an OK game (3/5) certainly not as good as the previous ones.